Western QLD (part 3) - davidstowe
David Stowe-2041
Flock Bronzewing
Phaps histrionica
In case you missed it, click the links below for
part 1
part 2

Day 6 : Diamantina Lakes National Park - a small dam in the middle of ....
Day 6 started off pretty relaxed.

We were ready to move on in search of one of my biggest targets for the trip - Letter-winged Kite

Armed with a couple of locations from previous years we were excited although wise enough to never get ones hopes up when it comes to birds and advice from better years

So we left Diamantina NP and headed once more into the gibber
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Gum Holes camp
Diamantina NP
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An Orange Chat (yet another new bird for Fatih) caused us to pull over not far out of the National Park

Not the best of views but enough for now

The wind was strong and hearing birds was incredibly difficult even for my two companions

After trying to get close to a Wedge-tailed Eagle on a kill (unsuccessfully as usual) Fatih thought he heard one of my other much wanted target species

Gibberbird

I of course couldn't hear a thing but know better than to doubt him. So we moved towards the "sound" and scanned the flat, lifeless looking gibber

Lifeless until i spotted my first new bird for the trip!

Gibberbird!
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We started to move toward it only for it to vanish into nothing. It might be bright yellow on the front but if it turns its back to you its gone - such is the effectiveness of its camouflage
Anxious minutes searching were unsuccessful until we started to walk back to the road and there it was back where we had come from!

Success and enough photos to make a photographer happy

I was ecstatic!
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Gibberbird
Ashbyia lovensis
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now on a high we headed south on the Coorabulka Station rd which skirts the western edge of Diamantina and Astrebla Downs National Parks.
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gates

it was good to be the driver :)
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Inland Dotterel
Charadrius australis
in this photo above there is a bird

a very small and well camouflaged bird

can you see it?
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Inland Dotterel
Charadrius australis
Here is its parent

an adult Inland Dotterel that instinctively led us away from its tiny chicks

This striking bird of the arid inland of Australia is a very sought after bird to see

Laying down and shooting through the grass gave such an intimate perspective of one of my favourite birds

This was already our second sighting of this species and it wasn't to be our last!

Once again however, another bird was calling...
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...well let's just say I wish it was calling!

The Letter-winged Kite is the only Australian bird of prey that i am yet to see.

Whilst I dreamed of seeing a Night Parrot on this trip i was fairy realistic about our chances

The kite however was a much more likely proposition

A small creek on a road through nowhere was our lunchstop (toasted cheese sandwich ...yum)
and best chance of seeing one

...at least the toasted cheese sandwich was nice....
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a number of nests and alot of whitewash and even some pellets (regurgitated fur and bone) were a positive sign but alas

no Letter-wings
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Zebra Finch (male)
Taeniopygia guttata
a beautiful male Zebra Finch gave me something to point the big lens at but as pretty as they are, was no consolation
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further south we drove and the soil changed more to clay

little did we know that we were getting very close to a place and an event that would shape our entire trip and birding memories
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we turned off the "main road" on a side track that cut SE below Astrebla Downs NP on another tip from last year about Letter-winged Kites

"DOTTEREL!!!!"

SLAM ON BRAKES

SWERVE (for something that I didn't even see!)

really hope I missed them!

we got out and walked back to the scene of the 'accident' to find two tiny Inland Dotterel chicks incredibly alive in the middle of the track!
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Dave picking up chicks
Photo courtesy Fatih Sam
so after the obligatory photos of such cute subjects we helped them somewhere safer than the middle of the track

not that we had seen another vehicle all day

(Also perhaps best not to mention to my wife that i spent alot of time picking up chicks on this trip)
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and with that sudden unexpected stop

came more birds

more Inland Dotterels

Australian Pratincoles

and a pigeon
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"BRONZEWING!!!"

more braking but this time with more excitement than fear

there was my second new bird for the trip 

Number 626

not that i count or anything


Flock Bronzewings are not just any pigeon

In years gone by they were said to be so numerous that when they nested on the open ground, sheep would have stained yellow bellies from lying on their eggs 

such was the density of their population

millions of them

then incredibly they were thought to be almost on the edge of extinction

fortunately making a comeback and now more often seen in the massive parties that gave them their name - although still nothing like their peak

a bird of the nowhere

a bird i wanted to see

excitement overwhelmed me as did the stress of trying to get close to them
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After some time trying to get close enough for a decent photo we abandoned the task

Daylight was fading and our destination for the night beckoned

But the disappointment soon catapulted into greater excitement as we came close to a dam and saw flocks of birds flying in and circling around the water

the numbers of birds we were now seeing, put the small flock we had reluctantly left into insignificance

We knew where we would be staying tonight!

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Although to be honest there was a period on dark where we almost moved on

We almost left

We almost missed tomorrow.


Lightning lit up the distant skies

Wind picked up and changed direction

Rain clouds rolled in quickly from the west.


There's one place you don't want to be when it rains out here...

...and we were smack bang in the middle of it!
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Once more though our trip was blessed

Our patience before committing to set up tents saw only a brief light shower (not enough to turn the roads to impassable bogs)

the clouds blew over and the moon and stars lit up the landscape

Beautiful :)

but it was now cold!
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So after setting up camp we kept ourselves busy wandering around in the moonlit plains looking for Geckos with massive spiky testicles...

Oh look - there's one!
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Day 7 - Bronzewing Camp

What would the morning bring?

Past reports of Flock Bronzewing sightings often mentioned big flocks coming in around 8 or 9am

Would today's incredible experience continue?
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yes
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yes
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tighter crop of one of the above images to give a sense of numbers
yes

It would not only continue

but become one of the greatest wildlife encounters of our lives.

We set up hides in the bowl of the dam and waited

Small flocks kept arriving, building up and building up

As the flock grew they wheeled and whirred over our heads in an incredible spectacle

The sheer number of birds became staggering

Too many to count

although we are still going through the photos trying to get a more exact number - at this stage numbers between 20,000 - 40,000 are being floated.

but to be honest
I don't actually care what the number is

lets just say there were ALOT

and it was amazing
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Eventually the flock broke up into smaller flocks and the birds went off to feed on the surrounding plains

We were ecstatic

Drained mentally and physically by this once in a lifetime event

and we rested

in readiness for the afternoon...
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it was hard to rest

even out here in the middle

there were always things happening

most often it was simply the flies

in fact the flies were the only thing that possibly matched the bronzewings numerically
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Emus appeared over the hump of the distant horizon like mirages of camels

their curiosity incredibly amusing

(one day i will share the video of the Emus running back towards us to get a better look at Henry laying on the ground pedalling his legs in the air!)

and after the Emus came Corellas.

On another day a big flock like this might have impressed us

but not today.
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and then they were back
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their numbers once again building up on the gibber plains around the dam
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much smaller flocks flew

and drank

sweet afternoon light brought out the colours of the birds and accentuated the brilliance of their camouflage against surrounding outback
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and as the light faded

the birds dispersed once again into nowhere
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a pair of Galahs and the moon became our only companions
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and that day drew to a close

that incredible, unforgettable day

and all around was quiet...


.... except for the cheering
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